From a young age, we're taught that we need to be the best at one thing to be successful. But, this idea is becoming increasingly untrue in this age of infinite leverage.
This path of being the best (top 1%) at a particular thing is an uphill battle. You’re directly competing with everyone else who wants to be the best at your skill. It requires lots of hard work, talent, and luck, and even then, it may not work out.
Luckily, there is another way: Become very good at a few skills you can connect well. In other words, learn a set of complimentary skills that make you uniquely qualified. Scott Adams called this a talent stack.
Before we get into how to build a talent stack, let us examine how Scott, a man with no extraordinary skills, created a $75 million net worth.
Scott Adam's Story
Adam Scott is the writer and illustrator of Dilbert, a popular comic strip. He publicly admits that he's not the best artist, writer, or comedian in the world. He says he was just a little better than average at each of these skills.
What he did have is a strong work ethic, a sense of humor, some writing skills and some drawing skills.
Individually, these skills are common. But together, they become dangerous. They become his talent stack.
“The idea of a talent stack is that you can combine ordinary skills until you have enough of the right kind to be extraordinary. You don’t have to be the best in the world at any one thing. All you need to succeed is to be good at a number of skills that fit well together.” - Scott Adams
How can you build your talent stack?
Explore your talents, curiosity, and passions. It may take some and trial & error to find the intersection of what you love, what you're good at, and what the world needs.
Take some time to think about your end goal. Do you want to climb the corporate ladder in a particular field or industry? Do you want to freelance? Start a company? Your talent stack should be complimentary to what you want to do.
Embrace this process and take your time. After some exploration, you want to end up with 2 skills to focus on.
Some of my personal favorites:
- Code + ML/AI
- Sales + Design
- Storytelling + Data Analytics
- Code + Design
- Design + Marketing
Add a third and you'll be unstoppable.
The trick is to become very good at a skill before you add another one. Not the best, but comfortably above average (top 25%). You don't want to be a jack of all trades and master of none. You want to master a few, taking your time as you focus on sharpening your skills.
My Talent Stack
Here's the talent stack that I'm developing right now:
- Coding (full-stack web development)
- Writing (communicating my thoughts clearly)
- Business Strategy (analyzing businesses and identifying trends)
Coding is very important to me because I like to build products and be able to code up quick prototypes. I'm getting better at this through building side projects.
Writing is also crucial because I want to be able to scale myself. It allows me to share my thoughts, get feedback from others, and build an audience. I’m developing this skill through writing on twitter and this blog that you’re reading right now.
Lastly, business strategy is an important skill to have as a startup founder. You need to be able to predict where the market is going and pivot accordingly. I’m improving at this through reading books, case studies, and keeping up with funding deals.
I'm passionate about coding and startups, so that's what I chose to focus my talent stack on. I recently sold my latest startup and plan to start another eventually. But in the near future, my goal is to join a high-growth startup as a software engineer. I believe it's the best way to rapidly develop my talent stack.
Building your talent stack will give you a unique edge for particular roles or tasks. In doing so, you won't be competing with everyone else anymore. You won't be playing a zero sum game.
Instead, you'll be focusing on yourself, playing positive sum games, and building your own path.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to DM me on Twitter and I'd be more than happy to chat about your talent stack.